No one can know.
This episode does a lot in its ten minutes, mostly through images. We get a good look at Pearl’s trauma, why she’s so attached to Rose, and what really happened with Pink Diamond.
Pearl: What is it, Steven?
Steven: You remember how Mom shattered Pink Diamond? Well, I was just wondering if maybe…you shattered Pink Diamond.
Steven: It’s okay! You can tell me. Why can’t you just talk to me about this?
It’s gotten to the point where Pearl covering her mouth doesn’t look instinctive so much as involuntary…
She changes the subject at the first opportunity, then escapes to her room. And to his credit, Steven is doing his best to be sensitive and avoids broaching the subject in front of the others, but all to no avail.
Until he gets this text from Pearl.
Pearl: Steven, I didn’t send that. I haven’t used my phone since I put it away this morning.
Steven: Maybe you butt-dialed me…with your Gem?
She tries to retrieve her phone (which she’d stored in her Gem for safekeeping, because apparently pearls can do that). And then Steven gets another text from her phone: A pink hibiscus emoji. And that seems to make her switch tactics.
Pearl: Steven. I need you to go inside my Gem and find my phone.
Steven: What? Is it stuck in there or something?
Pearl: There are certain things I can’t tell you. But I can tell you that I need my phone. Please. I can bring you back out once you find what you’re looking for.
Steven: Your phone?
And thus we begin our journey into Pearl’s psyche!
Steven: There’s a Pearl inside Pearl’s pearl?
Pearl: Oh! Steven. Where should I put you? Certainly not with the spears. Human paraphernalia? Personal items? Let’s just go alphabetical.
Steven: Wait, no! Don’t file me! You sent me in here for your cell phone!
Pearl: My phone? Oh, alright, let’s see. […] Oh! It’s a cellular phone. I must have put it under C. It should be right here. It should be right here! Unless…some other me took it.
Steven: There’s more of you in here?
Pearl: Oh no, not here! I made sure of that. I’m very good at compartmentalizing everything. That’s why I get to be surface, and they have to be put away.
Steven: Well, if one of those Pearls has the phone, can you tell me where to find her?
Pearl: Oh, you don’t want to go where they are. It’s a mess. Let’s just stay here where everything is alphabetized!
This version of Pearl is easily the most similar to the other (“normal”) pearls we’ve seen thus far. She represents the organized facade, trying to manage her feelings by not really addressing them at all – just pushing them to the back of her mind.
Steven: This doesn’t look like a mess. It looks like…the past.
Steven: Oh. That kind of mess.
These “other Pearls” appear to be trapped at specific, life-changing moments, constantly replaying traumatic scenes in her head.
Steven: You upset about the whole missing phone situation, too?
Pearl: No, it’s Rose. What was she thinking? She can’t have a baby.
Steven: Well, this is awkward.
Pearl: What am I going to do when she disappears? I’m going to lose her! Just like I lost my…what was it you said?
Steven: …Your cell phone?
Pearl: My cell phone!
Steven: Look, it’s going to be okay! That’s why you sent me in here, I’m going to help you find it.
Pearl: I think I know where it is. It’s probably where I lost everything else.
Steven: It better not turn out that her phone was in her pocket. Or she left it on the dresser, or dropped it in the toilet. Seems about as likely as putting it away in your repressed war memories!
Poor Steven is getting way more than he bargained for. Apparently he still hasn’t figured out what the audience clearly understands by now: This is Pearl’s way of “talking” about those things she can’t talk about.
Pearl: We’re the only ones left. Homeworld…they were all leaving. I thought we’d won. There was a bright light, and everyone was…why did I do it?
Steven: What do you mean? Just tell me!
She still can’t tell him. But she shows him.
Steven: Mom? I thought this was Pearl’s…what are you doing here?
It turns out it was only Pearl pretending to be Rose…and pretending to shatter Pink Diamond.
Steven: But…I don’t understand.
So she brings him in one Pearl deeper…
Rose: It’s going to be easy.
Pearl: There’s got to be another way. I mean, maybe-
Rose: Blue and Yellow don’t care. They never have. This is Pink Diamond’s colony. We can end it all right here, right now.
Pearl: You know this is crazy, right? Your status, my purpose – none of it will matter anymore. This will change everything.
Rose: I know. Isn’t it exciting?
Pearl: It is.
Rose: We can leave our old lives behind. If this is really my world, I want to give it to the Crystal Gems. I want to live here with human beings. I want to live here with you! We’ll both finally be free.
Pearl: Okay, I’m ready.
Pearl: I can’t believe I’m going to do this.
Rose: I can’t exactly shatter myself.
Then Rose changes into her “real” form.
I actually kind of had this twist spoiled for me, but since I hadn’t really watched the show at the time I heard it, I almost forgot when I was first watching it. It helps that Pink Diamond isn’t even mentioned until over halfway through the series, so by the time she did come up, I was more vaguely aware that there was some twist involving her, so for a while I just speculated that Rose simply hadn’t shattered her (since I quickly picked up on the nature of Rose’s sword). Still, even if I can’t be completely surprised by a twist, I much prefer that it makes sense (and makes sense of the rest of the story) than anything else.
Pink Diamond: Soon it will be just “Rose”…Wait. There’s one last thing I need to do.
Pink Diamond: No one can ever find out we did this. I never want to look back. So, for my last order to you as a Diamond, please, let’s never speak of this again. No one can know.
What’s heartbreaking is seeing how much pain this forced silence has caused for Pearl. She clearly blames herself for “shattering Pink Diamond” and all the ensuing chaos, even though she was literally acting on Pink Diamond’s orders. If she’d even been able to talk to Rose about it afterwards, I’m sure she would’ve reassured her, but her honestly selfish and short-sighted gag order prevented them from ever exploring that trauma together and trying to heal it. In that light, it makes sense why Rose wouldn’t “choose” Pearl in the end – her presence would always remind her of that grave error.
Pearl: Sorry to make you come all this way.
By the way, about that flower. Most people speculate that the hibiscus is meant to be the titular “rose”, since it’s also known as a “Rose of Sharon”. And no, the picture I used as an icon for my site was not an intentional reference – those flowers just happen to be fairly abundant where I live, and I used some of my own photos for backgrounds and such.
Pearl: I wanted to tell you for so long.
Steven: Mom was Pink Diamond.
Next time: The fallout…